Category:

in my life

I took the dog out again today!

Have I mentioned that I’m the playground lady at school? Yeah, how weird is that? And it’s Montessori, so there’s all that connectedness to nature focus, which means we go out every day without fail.

For two days I have driven over the Missouri, amazed at the huge blocks of ice floating in the dark murk of the river. I don’t believe I’ve ever seen anything quite like it, that half clogged with ice river, its frozen patches floating up white and slowly drifting, supported by the muddy flow, deeper and shadowed. It’s quite a contrast, lovely to behold, and I have to remember that I’m going 70 over the bridge and need to pay attention because the sight of the river draws my eye.

Also, every day I watch the oncoming traffic, crawling or sometimes stopped, and I think the person who told me that it wasn’t so much of an advantage driving against traffic was out of her mind.

There’s this cute kid (heh, that’s not really identifying, they’re all cute in their own way) but she’s new and she’s totally into the Montessori thing. Some kids just seem to fall right into the paradigm, they just get it on a deep fundamental level. Others have to be coaxed a little more, but this one kid, she gets it, and I wouldn’t even think she’s new except for: they told me she was new to the classroom, and after each cycle of activity she comes up to me and says, “What can I play now?” Should I tell her she’s actually working, not playing? Naaaaaah.

Oh, only one toilet accident today, and that was an older kid, so I could just tell her to go clean up, get her spare clothes out of her cubby and change. So that’s about as hassle free as it’s possible to get.

I’m really tired. Is it too early to go to bed?

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Took the dog out again today. Thought about how nice it was that I wasn’t going on a twenty minute walk with him. Believe that’s probably not in the spirit of forming a habit. Just realized that I’ll be gone on Friday and won’t be able to take him out then.

Down to two toilet related accidents today at work, even though I made every effort to put the child who had both accidents on the toilet. And he went! But then, as happens, he had to go again and didn’t make it. Twice. In four hours. At least it was all urine and no excrement today.

Wow. I really hope this blog doesn’t turn into a litany of the eliminatory antics of a bunch of three year olds. Let’s hope I’ll have not much to say in this regard in the future!

Tomorrow, I’m on my own, without the prior assistant, who is going on to her own job now.

Also, amazed at how the properly prepared environment invites the children to work. I know, that’s straight party line Montessori, but it’s just that it happens over and over and over again in the classroom and it never stops being cool.

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I took the dog out, even though it’s very, very cold.

There were five separate toilet accidents today at work. Granted, one was a repeat customer, but still. Also, it was not actually my job to clean up after the children who had these accidents, but that’s only because the prior assistant was still there today, and I was just supposed to observe, as part of my training. They promise me it is not like this every day.

I am not joking when I say bodily functions is one reason I prefer elementary children.

And I don’t find scatological humor really works for me usually, but there is something funny about the endless river of poop today, my FIRST day. One could make all sorts of jokes about it.

Also, cute kids! CUUUUUUTE!

Tomorrow, I am supposed to shadow the prior assistant. Toilet issues not my sole responsibility until Wednesday. Wish me luck. Send gloves and wipes.

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So. It’s that time again. The resolutions time. I waffle a lot on doing this, some years yes, some years no, and I have the same rough success with resolutions everyone else has, which is not much…starting off strong and petering off, or just trying to do too much in one fell swoop or being totally vague and setting oneself up for failure and so on.

But this year. I have A PLAN. It’s not my plan, it’s the zen habits guy’s plan. It’s called 6 changes. On the theory that it takes roughly two months to build a habit, you take a habit you want to develop, work on it methodically for two months, then go to the next one.

Everyone loves a list, so here’s Anna’s 6 changes for 2010:

  • Walk Sergei five times a week for 20 minutes. When in KC, just walk for 20 minutes. Sadly, Sergei cannot come with me to KC.
  • Meditate for five minutes a day, weekdays. Maybe every day?
  • Unclutter ten things every single day. When in KC, this uncluttering can be computer related, since I won’t be with my stuff.
  • Write fiction in some consistent way I haven’t decided on yet. What? I’ve got a couple of months to nail this down, it won’t be the first habit!
  • Do regular yoga, which includes a challenge pose (headstands/handstands, danurasana, whatever. Interval yet to be decided. Also not first on the list!
  • Something I haven’t decided on yet. My priorities point to something in either the area of my Montessori training, my family, or daily reading. But in the first two categories not sure what I need to be doing daily, and in the third, I think I got it covered, since I already do this daily. So. Bears some thinking about. But I have time, which is the beauty of this method!

Hey Anna, you’re saying, I notice blogging is not one of your habits. Ah, so astute. I can never get one past you, can I? Yeah, you’re right. It’s not, and I’ve started with a mad dash out the gate that I can’t possibly sustain over the rest of the year. I realize that. But here’s the true fact: blogging is not a current priority for me. I like doing it, and with my new shiny website, I want to do it. But I’m not resolving to. Not this year. However, if I play 6 changes right, then I have to do the pubic accountability thing. This is where I do the public accountability thing, so…see what I did there? Built-in blogging. It might not be riveting blogging, but then I never promised riveting, did I?

So ok, the six changes method works as follows. You take the first habit on the list. You announce that you’re doing it. I hereby publicly declare that I want to walk Sergei every week day. Then, you set a trigger. Something that happens every day or a habit you already have to piggyback the new habit on to. So I will come home every weekday, and coming home will be the trigger to walk Sergei. But at this point, it diverges from a normal resolution. Because I don’t come home tomorrow and walk Sergei for twenty minutes. No. I start with something way easier. Like I might just say “Oh, this is when I walk Sergei,” and take his leash down from the hook and then hang it up again. Something I totally couldn’t fail at. However, because it’s cruel to handle the leash and not put it on Sergei, I’m going to have to step up my game a little from what is recommended. So, for this week, “walking Sergei” will consist of putting on the leash and taking him outside. That’s it. Not actually walking him. That comes in week two. In week two, I will walk him for five minutes, tacking on five minutes every week until I hit 20 minutes, which will be by week 5 (not week six, but it’s close enough!). Anyway, I’m supposed to tell you every day whether I walked him or not, so you have that excitement to look forward to.

And that’s what I’m resolving.

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So now that it’s official and all, I can tell you the thing I’ve been hedging about in the last few posts. As of today, I am co-editor of PodCastle, sharing duties with the excellent Dave Thompson. As we like to joke: he’s the nice one. Rachel Swirsky, former editor, is moving on to focus on her writing (which is everywhere, and you should probably read some if you haven’t already).

If you haven’t checked out PodCastle before, now is an excellent time to start! In addition to providing a weekly dose of free fantasy audio fiction, you also have access to all previous 83 episodes and 45 pieces of flash fiction. There’s some excellent stories there, and a good chance at least some of them will please you. My daughter’s favorite one, for example, is In the House of the Seven Librarians.

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So 2009 was a turning point year for me, in a number of ways, and now I’m going to set down all the ways in which my life changed, both for posterity and to share.

Throughout 2008 I started to feel pretty worthless insofar as the writing endeavor was concerned. Although I know about the million words of crap and the persistence mantra, I was feeling really worn out with my lack of success. My lack of progress, really. I had worked as hard as I could since November 2004 and the only thing I had to show for it, besides several hundred thousand closeted words, was three sales – one to a dead market which no one would ever read. Even though I felt like I was mastering writing skills, even though I felt like I had improved considerably, even though I wanted to write and only write, I still felt like a failure. My clock had ticked down, the amount of time I had agreed to let myself try without judging, had ended. So I was judging. And found myself lacking.

I had hung a lot on my identity as a writer. Because I was failing at that, or failing to see external markers I could tell myself were progress, I had no work identity where I was succeeding. And it was terrible for my morale.

I am fully aware that I had an envious situation. I did not work at a regular job. All I did was write. And it will seem so whiny and height of privilege for me to say that this was a bad thing. But it was a bad thing. For me. For someone else it might have been great. For me, knowing how lucky I was combined with how little headway I was making was utterly paralyzing.

So by the end of 2008, I had decided that I needed the affirmation of regular work, and I needed to be free of the label writer. I might still write (or I might not. I was having a lot of trouble getting words down and I was willing to let myself off the hook) but I would also have other things to do, and other plans for the future. Not writing plans.

So in a nutshell, I gave up.

And even though I felt guilty about that, the guilt nowhere equaled the prior horror, so it was preferable.

I started to think about the other things I could do, and the other things I wanted to do.

First of all, I picked up a couple of once a week jobs, one proofreading and one helping someone check her email and deal with her computer. I continued to teach Spanish (also once a week). But the big job I picked up, around April (also unpaid), was slush reading for Escape Pod.

Reading slush was fantastic for me in a number of ways. One of the things it showed me was that all the “almost” rejections I was getting were probably not consolation rejections. I was now looking at the dregs of the slush, and I was mostly better than that. Even the roughly twenty five stories I have waiting to be edited before I can stand to send them out because of their enormous flaws were better than a lot of what I was reading, stuff people had felt confident enough to send out, to a primarily reprint market (which Escape Pod is). So I got a type of external marker right off the bat, something I would never have gotten had I continue to write and send out as before. I got verification that when the editor says “the writing is good” or “we seriously considered this”, they probably actually mean it. Revelation!

There’s something else I got from the slush, which is I started to gain an exact sense of when stories go off the rails. I can now point to the paragraph, sometimes even the line, where the story just goes wrong. And I learned something about myself in this process. While it’s extremely useful for me to have examples of excellence, examples of brokenness really serve as the best teaching tool. I need to see flaws to understand how things fit together and how they work. Examples of excellence are omnipresent in published work. Reading slush is free access to writing with flaws (sometimes quite clear and astonishing flaws), without the onus of a critique (as it might be in a writing group), and it’s something I’d never had before. I did very little writing this year. Learning about writing, however? I did a lot of that, especially as concerns story payoff and structure, both of which fall into areas I need serious improvement and help with.

In addition to picking up a few non-career jobs, I also decided to start retraining myself for an alternate career. I don’t particularly want to go back to working in a library right now. I want to change things up. There were two options that more or less landed in my lap, and both were options that I’d been considering for a long time. One was yoga teacher training. The other was Montessori elementary teacher training, through the Montessori Institute of Milwaukee, which opened up a training course in Kansas City. Because I’m a crazy person, and both opportunities presented themselves in the same calendar year, I started both, even though it was fraught and I ended up being ludicrously busy.

Montessori training required me to leave my family for most of the summer. I drove back and forth between Kansas City and St. Louis practically every weekend. Often, on the weekends, I had yoga teacher training to attend, in addition to the mountains of laundry and the homework from Montessori training. It was rigorous, but I loved it. I missed my family like crazy. My wildly independent child turned clingy and kept telling me how much she missed me. My husband held things together at home, but with effort, and the strain showed. He endured, as he promised me he would. My mother came from Argentina, and changed her return tickets to cover the time I would be gone, which was a huge help. She kept everyone fed. I had worried about everything in advance, and it was difficult in ways I’m probably not accurately describing (though it spares you some angst, so that’s just as well), but we all managed, and here we are.

Yoga teacher training concludes at the end of January. I’ll have two hundred hours, which is the baseline level for teaching classes. I have no immediate plans to teach classes, because I have my hands pretty full as is.

I have two more summers of Montessori Elementary training, as well as observation hours and student teaching. I did my first observations in November, and I loved observing and loved the kids and feel very strongly that I’m on the right track. I am very excited for my own classroom, the sooner the better!

In short, I’m pretty busy, not only now, but into the foreseeable future. I’m not sure when I’ll be writing, though I feel good about continuing to do so, which is not how I felt before. I only wrote and finished one short story this year. I’m working on a second, which I hope to finish before the year gets out, but it’s coming out all in hunks and pieces, and I’m very shaky on this non-linear writing thing. I did, however, edit one story and send it out, and have almost finished editing a second. If I do nothing but edit stories in 2010, I can still stay in the sub (and rejection) game.

In September, I picked up an additional job, helping editor Rachel Swirsky at Podcastle with the organizational aspect of the podcast, which is vast. This is a paying gig, though it pays very little, of course. I’m not trying to be coy. It’s less than $50 a month. It’s also a gig that will change come January 1. I’ll speak more to that after the New Year.

Also in September, I started being courted by two local Montessori schools for their elementary classrooms. The trainer in Kansas City had assured us that there was a shortage of Montessori elementary teachers and that we would be sought after assiduously, but I took that with a huge grain of salt. It seemed like a line, you know? However, no lie, people were taking me out to breakfast and talking to me and asking me whether I’d consider their school and what would it take and so forth. This did wonders for my self-esteem, and created huge eagerness in me to finish my training and get my classroom (something I now realize might happen in reverse order). One of the schools lost their primary assistant, and they asked me if I would come in starting January and be the assistant in their primary classroom, getting to know the staff, the situation, and the kids which may one day be in my own elementary classroom. I accepted. On January 4, I will begin working at OakHaven Montessori School as a primary assistant. They are hoping to open their elementary classroom in September, and I believe they want me in it, as their teacher. I am so enthusiastic about this! I cannot wait. Think of me, and wish me well in beginning this new, great adventure. If you had told me at the beginning of 2009 that at the start of 2010 I’d be working at a Montessori school I would not have believed it. Life is full of twisty turns, many of them wonderful and fulfilling.

So this past two weeks I’ve been busy shedding all the part time jobs I’ve acquired. I’m done proofreading. I quit slushing for Escape Pod as of December 31. I no longer teach Spanish at my daughter’s school (which I’ll miss, because I love doing it). I am still on the hook for helping the antiques lady with her computer, though I’ve let her know it is no longer a weekly engagement. I’m going to keep trying to shuffle off that last job, and the easiest way will be to find my own replacement. So if anyone wants like three hours a week of work, one morning a week, (it can be more, depending on your ambition, there are potential projects) helping a woman read her email and keep her customer database updated, let me know. It requires more patience than computer knowledge, and the working environment is peaceful and slow-paced. Comment, or email me, if you are interested.

I’m also looking for a place to stay for about ten weeks this summer in Kansas City. I have a fallback option, but I’m trying not to wear out my welcome. So if you know someone who could benefit from a roommate or house-sitter this summer in Kansas City, please leave a comment.

So, to sum up, in January I will be doing sekrit, soon-to-be-announced, extra stuff for PodCastle and I will be working at OakHaven as an assistant in one of their primary classrooms. At the end of January, I will have finished my yoga teacher training and be able to teach, should I want to. I have two more summers of Montessori training left to go before I get a diploma. It’s been a roller coaster of a year, but as I come into the new decade, there seems to be a pretty well-defined path ahead. I’m comfortable with that.

Also this year, unrelated to job acquisition, training, or job loss, my family got into a local CSA which we’d been on the waiting list for. Being a member of the CSA has been awesome! We’ve tried a number of new recipes, incorporated far more vegetables into our diet, and begun to eat more in tune with the seasons. We’ve learned about all new fruits and vegetables, too, such as sunchokes and daikon. The stuff we get from them (fresh mushrooms! carrots that taste like carrots! figs!) continually amazes and delights me.

So see? There was stuff happening, and plenty of it. I just wasn’t reporting it. But now you’re all caught up. Wish me well in 2010, I will be immersed in Montessori (teaching + training) and PodCastle, with a small helping of writing on the side and a little bit of yoga thrown in to keep things interesting. Also, since my new blog is so, so pretty, maybe I’ll keep up with it better, and you’ll hear from me more often. To be fair, though, my internet access while it was at training last summer was basically nil, but that could change this summer, and there’s a lot of the year that isn’t the summer. No promises, but the odds of more blogging are high.

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28 Dec 2009, by

The lyrics game

So it’s been a while, and I thought we could all use a tally plus a reminder of how the lyrics game works. As you may have noticed from the “What I’m Listening To” portion of the sidebar, I listen to a lot of music, and music plays an important part of my life. I often use lyrics for post titles, because I love how just a few sung words can so fully express thoughts and feelings.

The game works like this: I award two points to the first person who comments with the next line which follows the one I use as a post title. You can throw in artist and song, if you wish, but what gives you points is the next line of lyrics. In the first iteration of the game I gave points to either answer, but now I’m narrowing the rules a little. Other rules: posts close to comments after one hundred twenty days, so that’s as far back as you can go for your points; also, I may occasionally grant one point to someone for random amusing commentary, but the full two points only comes to the provider of lyrics.

Now I know you can all use google, and it would very sad and unsporting if you used google to get your two points, but if you must, so be it. It’s not cheating to listen to the song, of course. Also, I do not consider it cheating to look at my Last.Fm page (or the sidebar, which tells you the most recent tracks I’ve listened to), and that may give a clue. My tastes are pretty wide-ranging, and I’ll try not to stick to a certain musical ghetto, so everyone will get chances to guess.

So I had to do a little reconstructing from old comments to get the current rankings, but I believe they are thus:

  • 2 points Sunjunkie
  • 2 points Jerm
  • 6 points Lanfaedhe
  • 3 points Dave Lartigue
  • 4 points Elaine

It is still, as they say, anyone’s game. There’s now a nifty tracker on the sidebar, so you can clearly see that Lanfaedhe is the current king daddy of lyrics here at Among Mad People. There’s also a page where you can see the rules, in case you forget them.

At some point, perhaps toward the end of 2010, I’ll declare the game closed, or this round of it closed anyway, and send the winner something wonderful and extraordinary!

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Shortest day of the year. I always feel like it’s a victory if I can get this far along without feeling dreadful. This is usually when I tell people I’m going to quit writing/living/breathing/thinking/etc. From here on out the days lengthen again and it won’t be quite so dark. At the beginning of December, when I realized I was starting to feel pretty badly, I picked up some vitamin D. The research on the link between vitamin D and seasonal affective disorder (that which is internet accessible, anyway) seems pretty sketchy, but it’s a ten dollar gamble, whereas buying those lights (though I’ve been contemplating that, too) is like a hundred dollar gamble.

Predictably, I went for the cheap option. And obviously I have no way of scientifically proving that it’s helping me, because we all know how widespread the placebo effect can be and how unreliably one measures one’s own moods…but I really haven’t gone to quite such a dark and bitter place as I usually do at this time of year. I’ve been able to maintain some semblance of social relationships, and I haven’t felt as tired, or as in need of as much sugar and fat. So completely subjectively, the vitamin D supplements are helping. I don’t even take them every day (because I can’t seem to remember to) but even taking them every other or every third day appears to be having a positive effect.

Now there’s a lot of dark and cold left to the season, and maybe I’m being to too quick to call victory. We’ll just see about that.

Still, I wish I’d tried it years ago.

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